Ironwood, American Hornbeam or Blue
Betulaceae or Birch Family
Small tree with dark gray, smooth bark. Trunk has smooth ridges that make it look like rippling muscles. Leaves
egg-shaped, double-toothed, not opposite each
other on the twig. Male flowers catkins in mid spring.
Female flowers green, resembling a string of funny hats (see end
of twig below center). Fruits are tiny nuts, attached to
leaf-like bracts with 3 points, in a dangling cluster. Bracts turn brown as the fruits mature (below).
Native tree of bottomlands and floodplains. Occasional
in the floodplain of Connelly's Run.
A splendid specimen occurs next to the north bridge on the Riverway bike path.
Hornbeam (Ostrya Virginiana) is also called ironwood.
It has very similar leaves and flowers. The bark, however,
is brownish, grooved and shreddy, and the fruits are small nuts
enclosed in unlobed bladders in a cluster like a tiny pinecone.